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Mumzilla – The mother inlaw palava

Mumzilla, yes some of us have them.

Meddling, overbearing and impossible-to-please mother inlaws who are just out to ruin an otherwise wonderful marriage(or are they?)

Some have been blessed to have wonderful and understanding mother inlaws, some do not have at all while some others wish they could send theirs to where the sun don’t shine.

There are different kinds of mum- inlaws – there are those who think they are right and always want to tell you what to do, there are those who want to do everything you do – wearing the same kind of clothes and makeup (classic), there are the jealous ones who are overly competitive for their son’s attention.

If any of the above fits the description of your mother inlaw and more – you are not alone. Speak to your married friends and you will hear all sorts. I was even surprised to know that there is an association of daughter inlaws who created a forum to trash their mother inlaws and release some family induced stress in their marriages.

But what is the reason behind this age old stereotype of the wife versus mum in-law attitude? First, it will help to understand the role of a mother. A mother has been part of her child’s life from the very beginning. She has nurtured, shared secrets and has generally been involved in her child’s daily life. Even as the child gets older, there have been friendships and other relationship but not enough to severe the ties that bind them.

Now in marriage. The mother’s child decides to get married and commit entirely to his spouse, the one he loves. Mum is meant to be happy, right?

Well, she is, but her relationship is some what threaten. These are the forseeable problems

  1. She begins to feel insecure and has no idea where she stands anymore.
  2. There is the general fear that daughters in-law are terrible manipulators who want to control their son’s lives (which can become clear when mum stops receiving the attention she normally gets from her son)
  3. She does not want to face the facts that she now has to stand behind another woman in her son’s life
  4. She quickly forgets and still sees her son as her child rather than someone elses husband. (Flashback to the delivery room)

These are problems that need to be addressed, but before I share the lessons I have learnt over time, let me share the voices of one daughter inlaw and a mother inlaw in different homes and you be the judge.

 This is Sarah’s experience:

‘’My mum in-law came to ‘help’ on the day I returned home from the hospital after having my first child. I had been exhausted after a 20 hour long labour and I wasn’t feeling too strong to do much.  She wanted me to do the cooking(granted she didn’t want to take my place in the kitchen) and other entertainment. She was not even eager to help with bathing the baby. She was only interested in carrying the child when I had done all that needed to be done. After cooking, she will pile up the plates neatly in the kitchen so I could wash them up when I am feeling better.” (so much for helping)”.

Sarah said If it were her mum, she would know what to say to her.

This is a Mum in-laws experience:

”I went to visit my son and his wife when she had to return to work and needed help with the children. I had always had a good relationship with my son and his wife(or so I thought) until now. That faithful day I decided to help my daughter in law with dinner so that she won’t have to stress after her return from work. I surveyed the kitchen and with what I could find, meat and all I prepared a pot of egusi soup. On her return from work, I did not expect much of a thank you but a little appreciation, instead I was greeted with scolding like I was some house girl that was picked up on the street.

Her grievance was that she had a budget for the month and that besides, she had prepared some soup already and the egusi will only go to waste as there is not regular light to store it.  Of course I felt bad and vowed never to enter that kitchen again.”

I am not one to judge, but maybe if the wives put themselves in their mother in-laws shoes, they can see things from

their perspective and let them know what is expected of them. After all, these wives are going to be mother in-laws too someday.

Lessons I have learnt:

–          Communication is key to a successful relationship. Any relationship at all.

–          As a wife and mother of your household, let your voice be heard(I don’t mean shout or be abusive). Do not send the messages through your husband to his mother as you will be putting him in the middle. And guess who he will choose? Do not make him choose.

–          Get your husband’s full support in dealing with his mother. He may not know there is a problem, or may not even see it as a problem(who knows maybe that is how lazy mum has always been). For fear of being mis-interpreted, communicate with your mother inlaw in the presence of your husband. Don’t sugarcoat it but don’t be rude.

–          If you don’t express yourself clearly, your mum in-law wont stop that thing you do not like. And if you aren’t clear with your husband about how you would like the matter handled, he may continue to appease his mother at your expense. You’re an adult – speak to your husband first, and your mother in law next

–          Lastly, when you remove the in-law in (mother in-law) it becomes mother. Treat your mother inlaw as if she was your mother.  Make your expectations clear from the start so that you are both prepared for what is ahead.

I have two sons and hopefully would be a mother inlaw some day. I definitely would not want to lose my children that I sweated for all because they got married.  Would you?

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